On Evangelization, Assumptions and the Future of Religion

A couple of interesting items caught our eye today regarding the current state of religion in the world, and the opportunity such state affords the church through evangelization.

First, a piece from the Tablet by our frequent contributor Chris McDonnell titled “Our Evangelization Plans Rest on Outdated Assumptions.” McDonnell argues that there is a direct connection between “what has happened to the traditional model of family and what is happening in parishes.”

We leave our homes on many journeys, returning later for rest, relaxation, security and recreation. Our identity is recognizable in the artifacts, the furnishing, the family pictures and the ornaments. It is from within our homes, situated within a geographical parish, that our early lives are formed and attitudes tested within the safety of the family.

The Church is that family writ large, for our experiences at home, the joys and the tensions, the sorrows and the pains, are reflected within broader communities, be they the local parish, the diocese or the national Church.

McDonnell argues further that the Sunday rituals that used to take place around the table at home parallel what is happening with Sunday rituals in parishes.  You can read Chris’ entire essay on the Tablet website, here

Over at the National Catholic Register, a CNA/EWTN story highlighting data from a new study conducted by George Weigel showing some interesting trends in global religion. Weigel, of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington found that three trends and groups were showing a shift: Christianity in Africa, urban Christians and charismatic movements. 

Weigel, in a Feb. 25 column at First Things, pointed out that by 2050 there will be as many Christians in Africa as there are in Latin America and Europe combined — totaling to a projection of 1.2 billion. Africa has shown exponential Christian growth over the past century, revealing a promising future for Christianity on the continent.

Christians living in urban areas are projected to decline by 6% by 2050, making their total number 59%. However, Christianity made an urban comeback this century at 65% today, compared to only 29% in 1900.

Although there are approximately 644 million Pentecostal and charismatic Christians today, that number is expected to reach well over 1 billion over the next 35 years, making it one of the fastest growing groups in the religious world today.

“These three phenomena — African growth, urbanization and the rise of Pentecostalism — also help account, I suspect, for the greater fragmentation of the Christian world,” stated Weigel, adding that the rise of “entrepreneurial Christianity” — that is, founding one’s own church — is contributing to these three staggering numbers.

You can read the whole story featuring Weigel’s research on the National Catholic Register website, here


  1. The observations made by Chris O’Donnell in the orginal Tablet article find echoes on my side of the world. As I was able to observe over 20 years ago when I was in parish work in Tokyo, an efficient public transport network can see “popular” parishes draw in a congregation from a very wide area.
    As to the research reported by George Weigel in First Things, any one who regularly reads John L Allen (now heading CRUX) or the extensive writings of Philip Jenkins (Pennsylvania State University) will be ahead of him on that story. Missionaries in the field will also confirm the news out of Africa. Admittedly a long span of time, but since the end of Vatican II, my own community the Society of the Divine Word, has opened missions in 12 countries with one more new mission recently announced. We have Theology formation programs programs in Ghana, the Congo and Kenya.

  2. As a pastor who has started studying leadership; I’m blown away by efficiency processes integrated into the operation of a Starbucks. These seem so much faster and responsive than your typical parish council and liturgy committee.

    A young adult who has one month wearing the drive thru portable headset may find it hard belonging to a parish that is so cumbersome in its responsiveness. Perhaps that explains the rapid rise in “entrepreneur churches”.

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